All three blessings are pronounced before kindling the Chanukah menorah for the first time. On all subsequent nights, the third blessing, “Who has kept us alive,” is omitted.
Blessed are You, HASHEM our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.
Blessed are You, HASHEM our God, King of the universe, Who has wrought miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season.
Blessed are You, HASHEM our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
On the first night, the light to the extreme right is kindled. On each subsequent night, a new light is added to the left of the previous night’s lights. The new light is always kindled first, the one to its right second, and so on. After one light has been kindled, “These lights we kindle” is recited. The additional lights are kindled during its recitation.
These lights we kindle upon the miracles, the wonders*, the salvations, and the battles which you performed for our forefathers in those days at this season through Your holy priests. During all eight days of Chanukah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them,* but to look a t them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name* for Your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.
After the proper number of lights have been kindled, Maoz Tzur is chanted:
O mighty Rock* of my salvation,
To praise You is a delight.
Restore my House of Prayer
And there we will bring a thanksgiving offering.
When You will have prepared the slaughter for the blaspheming foe,
Then I shall complete with a song of hymn the dedication of the Altar.
Troubles sated my soul,*
When with grief my strength was consumed.
They had embittered my life with hardship,
With the calf-like kingdom’s bondage.
But with His great power
He brought forth the treasured ones,
Pharaoh’s army and all his offspring
Went down like a stone into the deep.
To the abode of His holiness* He brought me.
But there, too, I had no rest
And an oppressor came and exiled me.
For I had served aliens,
And had drunk benumbing wine.
Scarcely had I departed [my land]
When at Babylonia’s demise Zerubabel dame –
At the end of seventy years I was saved.
To sever the towering cypress*
Sought the Aggagite, son of Hammedatha,
But it became a snare and a stumbling block to him
And his arrogance was stilled.
The head of the Benjaminite You lifted
And the enemy, his name You blotted out
His numerous progeny – his possessions –
On the gallows You hanged.
Greeks* gathered against me
Then in Hasmomean days.
They breached the walls of my towers
And they defiled all the oils;
And from the one remnant of the flasks
A miracle was wrought for the roses.
Men of insight – eight days
Established for song and jubilation
Bare Your holy arm*
And hasten the End for salvation –
Avenge the vengeance of Your servant’s blood
From the wicked nation.
For the triumph is too long delayed for us,
And there is no end to days of evil,
Repel the Red One* in the nethermost shadow
And establish for us the seven shepherds*
* Upon the miracles, [and upon] the wonders.
The word miracles, refers to the obvious acts of intervention of His Divine Providence. This word can also mean banners or signposts, for God’s miracles are meant to be signposts and symbols that stand out to teach and to guide us. The term wonders, describes these extraordinary occurrences in terms of their independence from the regular order of things (R. Hirsch).
· These lights are sacred and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them.
It is forbidden to use the Chanukah lights for any personal purpose – such as reading or doing work by their illumination “lest one slight the mitzvos” (Shabbos 21b). The prohibition against enjoying the lights makes it manifestly clear to all that they were kindled for the sole purpose of commemorating the miracle.
In compliance with the prohibition against enjoying the lights, we light a shamash [lit. servant] flame, which is not holy, so that any incidental pleasure that comes from the lights can be considered as coming from the shamash.
· In order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name.
That is, by refraining from utilizing the Chanukah lights for anything but the mitzvah itself and contemplating them while they burn we make it apparent to all that our intent is to popularize the miracle and to praise God’s great Name in acknowledgment of His great miracles.
Following the kindling of the lights and recital of HaNeiros Hallalu it is customary to recite the following zemer. The author’s name, Mordechai appears in the acrostic of the initial letters of the first five stanzas. It was apparently composed in the mid-thirteenth century.
In the zemer the paytan [liturgical poet] recalls various exiles that the Jewish people endured, praises God for redeeming us from each one of them, and prays for the restoration of the Temple and for the dawn of the Messianic Redemption.
Shem MiShmuel notes that each of the earlier periods of servitude – the Egyptian bondage and the Babylonian, Persian and Greek exiles – served to prepare the nation for the tribulations it would encounter in the subsequent pogroms and exiles – Roman, Roman Catholic, European emancipation, the Russian pogroms, and the German Holocaust, now the Islamic Jihad and finally the unified governance of the Anti-Messiah
* O mighty Rock. This opening stanza is a plea for the reestablishment of the Temple, our House of Prayer; the rededication of the Altar; and the renewal of the services there.
* Troubles sated my soul, during the bondage in Egypt. Scripture (Jeremiah 46:20) describes the Egyptians as a very fair calf.
* [To] the abode of His holiness, i.e. the Holy of Holies in King Solomon’s Temple. The oppressor is Babylonia, who exiled the nation from its land when Israel drank the ‘wine of sin’ and her sensitivity to holiness was numbed.
* To sever the towering cypress. The Talmud (Megillah 10b) expounds on an obscure prophecy of Isaiah (55:13): In place of the thorn shall come up the cypress – the prickly, useless ‘thorn’ is Haman who attempted to destroy Mordechai, the stately ‘cypress’. But Haman’s own sinister plans ensnared him and he was hung on the gallows he had prepared for Mordechai.
* Greeks. This refers to the Syrian-Greeks, especially Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the monarch who attempted to Hellenize [i.e., impose Greek culture] Eretz Yisrael through force.
* Bare Your holy arm. This final stanza is generally regarded to be a later addition [about
1500] by a different author. The initial letters of the first three words form the acrostic, be strong.
Since it contains a strong plea for Divine vengeance against Israel’s foes, this stanza was subject to much censorship by Christian authorities. Accordingly some siddurim have replaced certain stiches with others less offensive to the censors.
The Red One refers to Esau/Edom, whose descendants brought the current exile.
The seven shepherds (Micah 5:4) who will conquer Israel’s oppressors are David, Adam, Seth, Methuselah, Abraham, Jacob and Moses (Succah 52b).
Biblesearchers Reflections - “Chanukah and the Conception of Yahshua (Jesus)”
Biblesearchers Reflections – “Chanukah and the Final War against the Saints of the God of Israel”
Jesus the Messiah (Yahshua HaMaschiach) of the House of David
Part Three – Born of a Virgin
Part Five – Was Joseph Betrothed or Espoused to Mary?